Shaanxi Nuo Opera staged in Gangzha
A man walks barefoot on knives during a Nuo Opera performance in Tangzha ancient town, Gangzha district, Feb 13. [Photo/ntgz.gov.cn]
Members of the Qiang ethnic group in Ningqiang county, Hanzhong city, Northwest China's Shaanxi province, put on a Nuo Opera show in Tangzha ancient town, Gangzha district, on Feb 13.
"Nuo" refers to the hardships people suffer and the guidance they require to resolve their problems. Influenced by the cultures of Sichuan province and Loess Plateau, the Qiang ethnic group's Nuo culture integrates the essentials of Nuo arts from other regions and features local arts in Ningqiang county.
"Ningqiang Nuo culture has a long history and Nuo Opera is an ancient ritual to relieve worries and difficulties, drive away devils, disease and evil influences, and petition for blessings from the gods," explained Huang Xiaohua, deputy director of the Ningqiang culture, radio and television bureau.
"When a Nuo Opera artist redeems a vow to a god, the artist will use unique stunts and techniques according to different needs," Huang added.
A man climbs barefoot up a ladder with knife steps in Tangzha ancient town, Gangzha district, Feb 13. [Photo/ntgz.gov.cn]
There are dozens of stunts performed in the Ningqiang Nuo Opera, including crossing a knife bridge, walking over fire and swallowing glass –– stunts that many people will be familiar with.
The hero of the Nuo Opera show in Gangzha district, 43-year-old Luo Zhen, who has studied the thousand-year-old opera from when he was 8 years old, demonstrated some of the stunts to local residents.
They are passed down over many generations through mentorship, and were especially prevalent when medicine was underdeveloped and Nuo Opera performers used stunts to enhance patients' confidence in fighting diseases in remote mountain villages lacking medical facilities.
Currently, Ningqiang county has over 300 Nuo Opera artists like Luo Zhen. They perform opera to locals free of charge at major traditional Chinese festivals.
Nuo Opera and its stunts have been designated a provincial intangible cultural heritage in Shaanxi province, and Ningqiang county has been lauded by the Chinese Folk Literature and Art Association as being the "hometown of Chinese Qiang ethnic group's Nuo culture".
A member of the Nuo Opera troupe from Ningqiang county, Hanzhong city, Shaanxi province walks barefoot over fire as part of a stunt in Tangzha ancient town, Gangzha district, Nantong city, Jiangsu province, Feb 13. [Photo/ntgz.gov.cn]
The Nuo Opera show performed by artists from Ningqiang county was part of the Gangzha-Ningqiang cultural communication program which aims to advance cultural exchange between the two regions. Another three shows of the Qiang ethnic group's Nuo Opera were also organized in Gangzha district.
To further the program, Gangzha district will arrange local folk art troupes to perform in Ningqiang county during the first half of 2019, following art exchange exhibitions in 2018.